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The idea that humans should come first when it comes to our relationship with the natural world traces back to the roots of western culture. For example, in Genesis 1:26, God orders that mankind will “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” According to that train of thought, we are the stewards of the planet. The earth belongs to us. It is ours to till and to keep—and to exploit, if we wish.

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are back from participating at the United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. This is their assessment of what happened.)

In the early morning hours of December 11, the nations of the world concluded the U.N. climate change conference by adopting a set of decisions that lays the foundation for the world to tackle climate change in the future, while taking modest but critical steps forward on key issues.

When Jerry Brown became governor of California in 1975, it was, for many of us, a relatively green nirvana. He created the Office of Appropriate Technology. He established a state sustainable energy agency called SolarCal.They were heady times, and much good was accomplished.

Now, he's coming  back to Sacramento as governor, older and maybe wiser, and old hands are looking to see if the same progressive ideas will be showing up. We'll see. When he was mayor of  Oakland, Brown hired the founder of the Rainforest Action Network, Randy Hayes, to make Oakland a sustainable city. Will there be a return act?

California, of course, is in a gigantic mess, budget-wise. Programs will be cut. Taxes will be raised. No fun. But maybe this is an opportunity to put lean, mean and green policies and programs to work

Rose Eveleth has an interesting piece on the National Resource Defense Council’s OnEarth blog about zoos choosing to house only the cutest, “richest” animals and leaving the less appealing critters to their own devices. This is important, Eveleth says, because zoos often operate breeding programs where endangered animals can safely reproduce offspring, which can then be released back into the wild, thus increasing the species’ ultimate prospects for survival.

One of the vexing problems associated with urban sprawl is the associated, call them ancillary, maybe secondary, effects that no one takes responsibility for.

In this particular case, we speak of traffic.

It's a particularly severe problem out near Fresno and Bakersfield, where air quality is famously terrible. One expects smog in Los Angeles and other urban areas, but not in the agricultural heart of the nation. But pollution there is, serious pollution that has a shocking fraction of kids carrying inhalers to school.

On Dec. 11 the federal Superfund program turns 30. Which means? Time for cupcakes!

Actually, the cupcakes arrived early -- on Wednesday -- when environmental groups including Earthjustice delivered the treats to lawmakers on the Hill with this request: reinstate “polluter pays” fees in time for the birthday.

The federal program funding cleanups at toxic sites began on Dec. 11, 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed legislation creating the Superfund program.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission filed court papers arguing that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the steep population collapse of river herring and shad.

There’s just one problem with that argument: according to law, both agencies are responsible.

In a bold and precedent-setting move, Costa Rica has prohibited all future open-pit metal mining! Environmentalists are celebrating the passage of the new law, which—approved unanimously by the Costa Rican Congress—establishes Costa Rica as a country that is "free from open-pit metal mining."

Costa Rica is the first country in the Americas to recognize the severity of the environmental and economic harms caused by open-pit mining, and to say no to future open pit mines.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.